Octopus drying in a restaurant in Gythio Greece. Photo by Cristina Pita.

By Gillian Ainsworth, Pablo Pita, João Garcia Rodrigues, Cristina Pita, Katina Roumbedakis, Tereza Fonseca, Daniela Castelo, Catherine Longo, Anne Marie Power, Graham Pierce, and Sebastian Villasante.

Read the full paper here.

Eliminating human hunger, achieving food security, and improving the health, nutrition and wellbeing of the world’s population is directly linked to biodiversity loss due to the detrimental impacts that food systems can have on the natural environment. Food systems include the collection of activities linking production to consumption across the food supply chain, therefore reversing biodiversity loss depends on societies transforming the ways food is produced to achieve more sustainable food systems. Most food systems research has focused on the agricultural sector, but the seafood sector is also critical.

Cephalopods (cuttlefish, octopus, squids) provide benefits to nature and people. They are important predators within marine ecosystems, support some fisheries as prey species, and are a culturally and nutritionally important seafood source that can support human food security. Harvesting cephalopods in sustainable and equitable ways requires understanding the links between ecosystems that cephalopods inhabit, food system policies and human wellbeing, which does not appear to have been previously studied.

We conducted a global scientific literature review to identify which drivers influence catch, trade, and consumption of cephalopods and how these drivers link to cephalopod food system dynamics. We used the IPBES conceptual framework to interpret our results since it has several important features that are relevant to sustainable and equitable food systems. From this analysis, we created a new ‘cephalopod food system framework’ that values nature’s contributions to people, links health of cephalopod ecosystems to human wellbeing, and identifies which drivers impact on cephalopod populations and ecosystems.

We propose the framework can guide improved cohesion between ecosystem health, food system policies and social wellbeing; help design research programs to examine the effects of markets on fisheries and ecosystems; and support fisheries management through better understanding of food system dynamics. Our approach could apply to other wild harvest commodities with implications for diverse marine species and ecosystems and can inform those working to deliver marine and terrestrial food security, while also preserving biodiversity functions of ecosystems.